Zimbabwe 2010 Budget Exposes Shocking Wasteful Expendtiture
Tendai Biti delivered Zimbabwe's 2010 National Budget in parliament yesterday. It looks impressive on the surface, but dig a little deeper and it loses its luster. With only a projected US$1.4 billion to spend next year, against a demand of US$12 billion from ministries, it is clear that our woes will not be lessened as a result of this budget.
Harare, Zimbabwe, 03 December 2009
At least Tendai Biti was honest about it. It is called transparency and is what we expect when we talk of an open and participatory democracy.
The Finance Minister laid bare shocking wasteful expenditure by the Inclusive Government during the course of this year and exposes a sense of priorities so warped that it calls into question the sanity of this running this charade called the Inclusive Government.
Not only is this bloated animal spending more than a quarter of a billion dollars on salaries for civil servants, but it also dishonestly classified US$28 million as funds spent on capital expenditure.
But of that US$28 million, developmental projects got only US$9 million while vehicles and furniture gobbled US$18 million! This government, therefore, decided to make itself comfortable first before seeing to the comfort of those who had elected them to ease their suffering.
Meantime, foreign and domestic travel for the president, the prime minister and all their ministers ate up US$32 million, while an additional US$38 million was spent on what is called "hire and rental expenses.
Teaching material, on the other hand, got a mere US$900 000, the same as infrastructure development. And Zimbabwe also gave away US5.4 million to SADC as some sort of tribute payment.
As if this were not enough, there is another US$31 million waiting to be paid, incurred by ministries simply hiring cars or sleeping in hotels without bothering about budgets and then simply submitting the bill for services already rendered. Biti has no option but to pay the bills, otherwise government will have no credit rating at all with local merchants.
And to show that the mentality still is active in government, the Ministries when submitting their bids for the 2010 Budget, presented a combined demand of US$12 billion. The Ministry of Finance says the country will only have just over US$1 billion to spend next year.
The Ministries know this, and yet they still went ahead and made their demands, which means they will, if they do get what they are asking for, continue to hire cars, rent hotel rooms and so on without seeking any sort of Treasury approval and then simply presenting the bill when the deed is done.
If you just look at the figures, then Biti appears to have done a very good job and presented a very good budget. But it is when you look at the small pot available and see what percentage of it is being spent on what sector that a different picture emerges: this is a grandstanding budget.
In terms of expenditure next year, the civil service is still the biggest spender at around 30%. The health sector gets only 10% and the education 20% of the expected US$1.4 billion in revenues.
Capital development draws 30% from the figure but Research, Science and Development gets only 1%.
This in a country in which almost everything, including common sense, where innovation in overcoming challenges should be actively pursued. We could have done better than 1% and targeted it as such things as cheap alternative energy.
The thought process behind the budget is not too difficult to comprehend: get the money in and then spend it. The measures announced today (more of which later) are nowhere near enough to transform the country, with the Minister putting Zimbabwe's agricultural production growth at a mere 10%.
That is basically starvation production.